A Word About the Cartoon
Thanks to APCT'er Chris Caligari for his keen sense of humor in providing the idea and caption for the above cartoon. I've been saving my favorite creation for a special occasion and asked his opinion of my "severed body parts humor" and he came up with this suggestion.
Another Way To Enjoy Chess ... Design Forms!
Chess provides a never-ending array of different ways to enjoy our favorite activity. Don't settle for just one or two! I'd like to high-light one activity not often discussed ... chess forms. Most of us use forms of one type or another in our pursuit of chess, from score sheets to diagrams to pre-printed postal chess postcards. From my earliest years of chess I've taken pleasure in using forms I designed which had exactly the features I wanted. If you're not completely happy with the forms you are now using, design your own!
For OTB chess I wanted a form I could keep in a standard 3-ring binder. I also wanted score sheets printed on heavier stock with a diagram for the final (or another critical) position. Furthermore, I wanted a place to note down the time used after each move. In postal chess I've never found a form which allowed me to note the dates received/replied in exactly the way I preferred. The ICCF forms came close but they weren't precisely what I wanted. So in both cases above I designed and printed my own forms.
At first I had to prepare stencils, a difficult and time-consuming endeavor. One slip and the stencil was ruined. Typing with some hand-drawing of lines was another technique I used. It worked but wasn't entirely satisfactory. With the new word processors and desktop publishing software available for home computers it is now possible to do very professional-looking work. Print out the result on a laser-printer or other high-quality printer and you have some very nice looking forms ... forms which precisely meet your chessic needs ... and a source of pride and pleasure every time you record a move. Try it ... you'll like it.
Chess Software for Postal Record Keeping
Several members submitted useful information and intelligent ideas for features of the ideal postal chess software package. Two sent information about software that has been around for some time. I'm currently trying to obtain up-to-date information on this software.
Ralph P. Marconi of Joliette (Quebec), Canada, wrote, "...such a software package that you mention does exist and has existed since 1988. As a matter of fact I've been using this program since 1988. The program is called PC-SCOREBOOK, written by Javy R. Gwaltney III ... Coincidentally, he developed the program for many of the same reasons you mentioned." APCT'er Marconi continued with a list of features, many which I had thought of plus a few I hadn't. He also commented, "By the way, I don't see how even this program can eliminate clerical errors or notational errors. After all, what if you were to enter the wrong information or move! Believe me it has happened to me. What I mean is that if you enter a legal but incorrect move (not the one you or your opponent intended) the program will save it. The program does check the legality of the moves."
Dick Mesirov of Gladwyne, Pennsylvania also sent information about a commercially available postal chess system. He said, "What it does is keep records perfectly. Moves are entered with a mouse and when you are ready you print out five labels, just like the ones enclosed. Your return address, opponent's address, a label with the section, last five moves, etc. and a printout of the board. They suggest that you send your opponent the board print-out, but I keep them instead of using a Post-A-Log. You can also get a complete print-out of the game at any time and I've enclosed one also. Addresses can be changed at any time and there's no limit to the number of games that can be in progress at any time. I haven't made a clerical error since I started using the program!"
Thanks for the info, chessfriend! This last software package (and apparently the first one as well) uses a clever technique to avoid problems with printers that may not print on cards. All the information to be mailed is printed on five standard labels. You just peal off the labels and stick them onto the postcard. The two packages had similar enough descriptions that I think they are the same package. I've sent to both addresses provided and will report on what I find out.
Chuck Luers of Batesville, Indiana sent the following:
He added a few comments including, "Seems to me that the marketability of their packages [current chess software vendors] would be enhanced if they incorporated (or made available as an extra-cost option) the postal features list. The big question is, 'Would enough people buy it to justify the development cost?'"
Chris Caligari of Hudson, New Hampshire noted:
"Regarding postal recording software my 2-cents worth would add two things to your present design.
Thanks to the readers who took the time to think out and write down their ideas. Just as I hoped, there are many items in the above lists that I hadn't thought of. Hopefully by the time you read the next column I can report a start of my version of a software package for postalites, though it will certainly lack many of the more difficult features suggested. Chuck Luers suggested in his letter that many of these difficult features can be found in existing software so why re-invent the wheel. This is certainly valid and I agree completely.
More Morphy's Laws of Postal Chess
Stan Evans of Louisville, KY sent the following:
Dave Shanholtzer contributed these:
More on Taking Back Moves
This topic has certainly sparked a lot of interest. The whole area of chess ethics is indeed a difficult one (see the following comments on GM Patrick Wolff's Chess Life article). I am reminded of Eliot Hearst's definition:
Ethics, Chess -- undefined (we could find no examples of this).
I recently received a thought-provoking letter from APCT top player and columnist Jonathan Edwards. I, in general, am in the Do-Not-Allow-Takebacks camp but this letter provides a compelling case for allowing takebacks, at least for some competitors (that is, some of you might be better off allowing your opponents to correct a non-chess error).
Thanks for the letter! This issue isn't an straight-forward as I thought as one time. The ideas discussed by both Jon above and Stephan are not easy to ignore. The idea of being labeled a bad sport because you insist on strict interpretation of the rules is unappealing to me. But if a more relaxed approach to the rules is more in line with your enjoyment of postal chess there's no reason not to use that approach, in my opinion.
Jonathan Edwards followed up his letter with some comments he gathered from others. He said, "Before mailing this, I put a draft out on the internet ... I have appended the responses I received."
Ned Walthall responded:
"I disagree. I admire your generosity and your sportsmanship, and I find your arguments very compelling. Nevertheless, I find myself very uncomfortable with the notion of either being allowed to correct a notational error or allowing an opponent to do so. It is a very tough call, but I lean to the less generous line of behavior for a number of reasons.
Harold Shane also sent a few comments:
"I could not agree with you more! At my age (58), I know that I will never be a world class player and really participate strictly for enjoyment. When I play (unrated) OTB with friends we often give moves back rather than ruin a good game. I realize that APCT games are rated but ratings are not a matter of life and death. I have lost games through notational errors but have never won one ... instead I have given back moves. Again, in APCT play there are cash prizes so I guess that is important to some players. Still, what pleasure does someone get out of such a win."
Is this the final word on giving back moves? Somehow I doubt it. Feel free to add your comments on this or any other issue of interest to postal chess players.
GM Patrick Wolff Discusses Chess Ethics
In the July 1994 issue of Chess Life GM Patrick Wolff's column "The Play's THE THING, but MY RENT is due" discusses an incident reminiscent of the notational error issue above. He had previously written about the incident and had polled readers for their opinions. In his words, "Briefly, he made a move and forgot to hit his clock. I did not call it to his attention, and 15 minutes elapsed before he realized his omission. He refused to shake my hand after the game, and thought that my conduct was unsportsmanlike. I felt that it was not my responsibility to call his attention to his own error. When I polled the spectators afterward to find out what the prevailing opinion was, there was a genuine split. About two-thirds agreed with my position, but there was a strong minority who felt that it was not gentlemanly conduct on my behalf."
The article, which contains a number of quotes from reader responses, makes for fascinating reading. The results of the reader poll were similar to the sentiments at the tournament site. Though the analogy to the notation error issue is not precise there are still some arguments in the column that would sound very familiar to readers of this column. You'll even find the George Will quote from Stephan Gerzadowicz that appeared in one of my earlier columns.
Chess Life Columnist Uses Computer!
We are used to seeing the one excellent postal column in Chess Life written by Alex Dunne. But we are treated to a second postal chess article in the June 1994 issue, "Adventures in Postal Land" by Jeremy Silman. It's an interesting article written from the perspective of a strong OTB player who dabbles in postal. The most interesting part of the article for me was on page 25 in the annotations of a game. Silman concluded at one point that his opponent (who was playing very well) must be using a computer. So he fed the position to his computer to find out how the computer would continue. When he found that his computer preferred a move for his opponent that was actually a bad move he played into that line hoping his opponent's computer would make the same mistake. I'm not familiar enough with USCF rules to know if consulting computers in any form is legal but this is the first time I've run across a player admitting in a major publication that he used a computer to help win a game. It was, of course, a novel approach to using a computer to help win a game.
copyright © 1994, 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell
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